Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy communicates the struggles of the students so well that dialogue is unnecessary in The Tribe.
The summer movie season is one for superheroes, dinosaurs and apparently, as shown by the film The Tribe, Ukranian sign-language films presented without subtitles. For those who feel as if watching dinosaurs menace theme part visitors and Robert Downey Jr. trading quips with the Chrises Evans and Hemsworth have become repetitive, it is safe to say that a dialogue-free Ukranian film set at a boarding school for the deaf will seem strikingly original.
The lack of dialogue in The Tribe proves no barrier to understanding the film by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, the auteur behind “Deafness” and “Nuclear Waste.” Even without subtitles to translate the sign-language dialogue, Slaboshpytskiy communicates the struggles of the students at the boarding school for the deaf so well that dialogue is unnecessary. Any viewer who could get through the Best Picture winner The Artist could adequately handle the lack of dialogue here. Unlike the Weinstein Brothers confection, The Tribe is not a feel-good comedy best remembered for a scene-stealing dog. It is a gritty, often graphic work more akin to a modern gangster film than to a silent film. Even Children of the Lesser God – perhaps the only mainstream production to be even remotely similar to The Tribe – proves an inadequate comparison to what Slaboshpytskiy does here.
Keeping with the naturalist aesthetic of The Tribe, all of the actors are non-professional performers who add to the gritty realism of the film without making it seem amateurish. These actors deserve tremendous credit for performing scenes that would disturb even the most seasoned actor, from graphic sex scenes to an extended scene depicting a surgical procedure. There are hints of Lars von Trier in Slaboshpytskiy’s work and perhaps a bit of Werner Herzog in The Tribe, as if the silence could at any moment give way to screams of agony.
The Tribe should appeal to anyone who desires a completely novel cinematic experience this summer. In a season filled with sequels and remakes, this might be the one film that can truly claim originality.
Now in theaters
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